Combating desertification 


  • The Green Great Wall - Combating Desertification in China

Desertification of drylands is a global problem in both developed and developing countries. Desertification affects human life on many levels. China is one of the seriously affected countries with vast areas of desertification. Dust and sand storms are threats for drylands as well as for megacities. Dust is transported over vast distances. During the past decades major measures to combat desertification were established in the northern provinces. Those include vegetation shelterbelts and reforestation of desertified lands to reduce soil erosion and to stabilize sand dunes.

Veste, M., Gao, J., Sun, B., Breckle, S.-W.,Geographische Rundschau Internationale Edition 2 (3): 14-20., 2006 (more…)


Restoration of desert sand dunes in Northern China.


  • Trade-off between shrub plantation and wind-breaking in the arid sandy lands of Ningxia, China 

The effect and cost-benefit relationships of planted shelterbelts on reducing wind velocity and sand transportation rate (benefit) in relation to shrub height and density (cost) were studied in the Yanchi sandy land in NW China. The speciesspecific morphology of Salix psammophila C. Wang & Ch.Y. Yang was more effective in wind-breaking than Caragana microphylla Lam. while Tamarix cf. chinensis was least effective. Wind-breaking and reduction of sand transportation increased with shrub height, higher planting density, number of parallel rows in a shelterbelt but was always the greatest near ground. It declined with increasing distance from the lee-side of the belt. Shelterbelts composed of 1.5m tall C. microphylla at 1.5m planting distance in 3 rows per belt exhibited best effects on wind-breaking and sand fixation. In a modelling approach these effects could be generally expressed as manifolds of shrub height rather than absolute distances, and they were correlated to a cost (investment) factor given by shrub height and planting density. The highest benefit-cost relationship is now yielded by planting smallest shrubs in 1 to 2 rows per belt at a larger (optimal) distance between rows and belts. Obviously, the trade-off is more sensitive to costs than to benefits favouring many small shrubs with smaller individual effects rather than fewer larger shrubs with stronger effects. This implies the potential for an appropriate, controlled wood harvesting from these shelterbelts as long as near-ground re sprouting is not affected, and the use of grasses when planting these belts.

Cui, Q., Feng, Z., Pfiz, M. Veste, M., Küppers, M., He, K., Gao, J., Pakistan Journal of Botany 44 (5), 1639-1649, 2012. (more…)

shelterbelts china


  • Halophytes as usefull tools for rehabilitation of degraded lands 
and soil protection

Worldwide salinity is often very prominent problem in degraded lands, caused by the input of sodium chloride and other salts and the lack of drainage. In this environment the excesses of soluble salts in the soils have a large influence on the ecosystems and plant growth and reduce the productivity in extensive area. Halophytes may serve to improve the ecosytem production. They are model plants for the understanding of the adaptation strategies in such habitats. In this paper we present two case studies from the cold-deserts of Central Asia and the tropical semi-arid regions of  north-eastern Brazil to demonstrate the use of natural halophytic vegetation in combating desertification. Aim of the presented studies were to identify suitable plants on basis of their morphological and ecospyhsiological strategies for their reestablishment on saline soils.

Wucherer, W., Veste, M., Herrera Bonilla, O., Breckle, S.-W., In: Proceedings of the First International Forum on Ecological Construction of the Western Beijing, Beijing, 87-94, 2005. (more…)

Haloxylon on the dry sea-floor of the Aral Sea (Photo: Walter Wucherer)

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